March 16, 2023

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

By Glenn

Saint Patrick’s Day has become a beloved American holiday.  Whether that means pinching someone for not wearing green, drinking green beer, or eating corned beef and cabbage, the holiday has made it into our popular culture.

Saint Patrick himself is a Roman Catholic saint.  The Church grants the title Saint to a person for Christ-like behavior during their life time.  It also establishes a miracle after the Saint died by ruling out any natural explanations.

For the Church, the miracle is a crucial part of beatification.  Beatification means the person has already entered into heaven. The Saint is in the presence of God and can intercede with God for the living.  The most famous prayer for intercession is the Hail Mary.

“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

You will hear this prayer of intercession at a Catholic Wake during the recitation of the Rosary.  The living ask Mary, Queen of Heaven, to intercede with a prayer for the dearly departed.  At the hour of our death Mary will plead our case before her Son, the Judge of the Living and the Dead.

The Catholic Church teaches that all Saints can intervene for humans with God.  Most saints, like St. Patrick, are associated with specific causes.  It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that St. Patrick watches out for the Irish just like Saint Joseph watches out for families and refugees.

English Puritans, called “Pilgrims” in American history, tried to erase saints from popular culture.  They falsely accused Catholics of worshiping saints.  As Calvinist, Puritans wanted to purge everything but the grace, or mercy, of God from society.

Puritans smashed statues.  They broke stained glass windows.  They white washed churches to cover religious art.  They falsely accused Catholics of worshiping these objects as idols.  Puritans even banned Christmas.

By the time the English founded colonies in the Americas, there were not many Catholics left in the home kingdom.  This meant very few colonies had Roman Catholic residents and no holidays for Saints.

The big change came well after the War of Independence.  The Irish potato famine lasted from 1845 to 1852.  Hundreds of thousands of starving men, women and children immigrated to the United States.

“Print shows a one panel, three scene cartoon showing, in the first scene, an Irish man with the head of Uncle Sam in his mouth and a Chinese man with the feet of Uncle Sam in his mouth, in the second scene they consume Uncle Sam, and in the third the Chinese man consumes the Irish man; on the landscape in the distant background are many railroads.”

Luckily for them, the First Amendment protected their faith and their rituals. On the flip side, however, Puritan anti-Catholic bigotry remained strong. 

This bigotry manifested itself in a new political party, the Native American Party, or the No Nothing Party. The party saw Irish Catholics as a threat to American exceptionalism.  They accused the Pope of organizing a plot to destroy American Democracy and the Irish being a criminal race.   

I am not Irish, but I am a Roman Catholic.  It’s sad to remember the bigotry and obstacles faced by those early immigrants.  I am proud, however, that Americans eventually put that aside and made America a More Perfect Union.  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

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